Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2001)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2001.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2001

NASA taps JHU/APL team for first Pluto/Kuiper Belt mission
NASA has selected a team led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and Southwest Research Institute to develop the first mission to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt region beyond the distant planet.

Working more than 20 hours a week hurts students' math and science studies
Even when socioeconomic status and previous educational achievement were taken into account, high school students' jobs still had a

LLNL scientists to present global warming mitigation tool for ridding the atmosphere of excess carbon
Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory today will present evidence that a new method for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and placing it in the ocean has less impact on marine life than atmospheric carbon dioxide release or other global warming mitigation methods, such as direct injection and ocean fertilization.

World's largest scientific society receives presidential honor
President Bush today presents the American Chemical Society with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The Society is one of ten institutions receiving this prestigious award Wednesday, December 12 at the St. Regis Hotel.

Geophysicist studies life in the early solar system
Between the cataclysmic impact that created the Moon around 4.5 billion years ago and the first evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago, there may have been long periods during which life repeatedly spread across the globe, only to be nearly annihilated by the impact of large asteroids. The early Earth, in other words, may have been an interrupted Eden.

Astronomers unveil first detection of dark matter object in the Milky Way
Astronomers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in collaboration with an international team of researchers, have directly detected and measured the properties of a gravitational microlensing event in the Milky Way.

Oscar winning screenwriters have shorter lives than nominees
Oscar winning screenwriters have shorter lives than losing nominees, even though greater success is usually linked to better health, finds a study in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

First image and spectrum of a dark matter object
An international team of astronomers has observed a Dark Matter object directly for the first time. Images and spectra of a MACHO microlens - a nearby dwarf star that gravitationally focuses light from a star in another galaxy - were taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The result is a strong confirmation of the theory that a large fraction of Dark Matter exists as small, faint stars in galaxies such as our Milky Way.

Two books focus on forecasting climate, weather
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research examine forecasting from multiple angles in two new books. One spells out the societal lessons learned from the 1997-98 El Nino by planners around the world; the other shows how improved weather and climate forecasting will emerge from a new microsatellite program.

UCSB lab discovers cross-protective vaccine
New medical research at the University of California, Santa Barbara represents a significant step toward preventing infections through the development of vaccines that elicit protection against several different disease-causing strains.

Chemical engineers suggest Alzheimer's onset tied To cholesterol, brain chemicals
Few people can look Alzheimer's disease in the face without flinching. Alzheimer's takes from people the things they value most: intellect, emotion, independence, hope -- and eventually, life itself. Now, a group of unlikely Alzheimer's researchers - chemical engineers in Texas A&M's Dwight Look College of Engineering -- are developing new understanding of how the disease robs Alzheimer's sufferers of their memory and reason. They've also found hints of new ways to eventually prevent its onset.

New book distills essence of gene regulation (and more)
With his remark,

A little larceny comes naturally to Northwestern crows
Crows and ravens are depicted as being clever and tricky animals in countless American Indian stories and legends. Those characterizations apparently are right on the mark, according to a pair of University of Washington researchers who have found a species of crow that is constantly looking for opportunities to steal food from other members of its flock.

People in low social classes delay seeking treatment for schizophrenia
People born into low social classes are not at increased risk of developing schizophrenia, but they appear to seek treatment at a later age than those in higher social classes, concludes a study in this week's BMJ.

New study shows early signals of climate change in earth's cold regions
Global mean temperatures have risen one degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, with more than half of the increase occurring in the last 25 years, according to University of Colorado at Boulder Senior Researcher Richard Armstrong.

Georgetown studies find that delaying treatment of spinal cord injury may aid in recovery
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that rats whose spinal cords had been severed recovered more fully when treatment was delayed until two to four weeks after the spinal cord injury. This unexpected, seemingly counterintuitive finding contradicts the idea that treatment must take place as quickly as possible to be effective. The study is being published in the December 1 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Internal clock not ready for Mars time
The human internal clock fails to adapt to non-24-hour days and that takes its toll on astronauts, international travelers and shift workers. Shuttle missions typically operate on 23.5-hour days, and astronauts exploring Mars would experience a 24.65-hour day.

Climate change could boost cotton yields
A new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research has found that cotton yields are likely to increase in the southeastern United States if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise as projected this century and if farmers adapt their agricultural practices to the resulting climate change.

Clean water for Nepal is focus of MIT research
An MIT project that aims to help provide clean drinking water for people in developing countries began with an extraordinary conference whose participants included an MIT engineer, the queen of Nepal, and about 75 illiterate peasant women.

Prediction of chronic fatigue syndrome and mood disorders after infection
Certain infections can trigger chronic fatigue syndromes (CFS) in a minority of people infected, but the reason is unknown. In a study in this week's issue of THE LANCET, Peter White and colleagues from St Bartholomews Hospital and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, UK, describe factors that predict or are associated with prolonged fatigue after glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) and contrast these factors with those that predicted mood disorders after the same infection.

NIST miniature refrigerator flies aboard current shuttle mission
The smallest cryocooler (a gaseous refrigeration device with no moving parts) in the world is in the

Funding for Americans with Disabilities Act enforcement inadequate to do job, study shows
When it passed in 1990, supporters hailed the Americans with Disabilities Act as the most significant civil rights law ever enacted for people with disabilities and the most important civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher recalls. Trouble is, employment provisions of the act, which many people view as its most important provisions, have never lived up to their potential for ensuring fairness, says Dr. Kathryn Moss.

December Media Mighlights: GEOLOGY and GSA TODAY
The December issue of GEOLOGY includes a new

New depression and anxiety treatment goals defined
To be successful, treatment for the more than 20 million Americans suffering from depression and anxiety must aim not for partial improvement of the illness but for remission (virtual elimination of symptoms) and complete recovery of quality of life, according to an expert panel comprised of leading U.S. mental health clinicians, researchers, consumers and advocates convened by the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) on Friday, Nov. 30th, in New York City.

Enzyme mimetic reduces tissue damage in colitis animal study
The estimated 1 to 2 million Americans suffering from inflammatory bowel disease may benefit from a potential new treatment, using small-molecule enzyme mimetics, based on research published in the European Journal of Pharmacology.

Gene therapy corrects sickle cell disease in mice, Science authors report
A new gene therapy method corrects sickle cell disease in mice by transferring an anti-sickling version of the faulty gene associated with the disease using a modified viral carrier.

Parents' behavior affects development of low birth weight babies
Babies born small at full term may show different temperament characteristics than normal-weight babies, according to a study that also found that the way a baby's mother responds to this sometimes-troublesome behavior can affect infant development. The study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, notes that some smaller babies' early experiences, their home environment and the way their mothers perceive and interact with them affect the babies' performance.

Cloning primates is turning out to be a real challenge
There's a lot to learn before primates can be cloned. A high percentage of cloned monkey embryos that look healthy are really a

Study of key enzyme sheds new light on programmed cell death and may lead to new drugs for reducing the severity of stroke
Critical new data on a complex enzyme that lies at the crossroad between cell suicide and tumor suppression has opened a promising new front in the battle to find effective treatments for stroke and cancer.

Scent of a lobster
No question about it... spiny lobsters aren't pretty. Keith Ward, chair of ONR's Biomolecular and Biosystems Science and Technology Group, doesn't particularly like their looks either, but he knows their sense of smell is astounding. Researchers funded by Ward figure that a lobster's extraordinary ability to sniff out all kinds of odor trails in the water is just what the Navy would like an unmanned vehicle to be able to do.

Commerce secretary announces new standard for global information security
The Advanced Encryption Standard is now the official federal method for protecting sensitive computerized information and financial transactions. It is expected that the private sector also will use the AES extensively, benefiting millions of consumers and businesses.

Time to reassess the value of HRT
It may be time to reassess the value of hormone replacement therapy, following evidence that it reduces the effectiveness of breast screening and causes breast cancer in women over the age of 50, says a leading breast surgeon in this week's BMJ.

Arctic Gakkel Ridge eruption reveals magma from Earth's mantle
It's exciting to be the first scientist to observe a volcanic eruption on an ultraslow-spreading mid-ocean ridge, an event in and of itself that rarely occurs. Even better is discovering that the USS Hawkbill, a submarine equipped with scientific mapping tools, just happened to have passed by at the same time and recorded the event while the scientists on board were completely unaware of the eruption.

The lego approach to counter cyber-terrorism: Researchers release computer intrusion detection system with configurable components
UCSB computer scientists have created and released a comprehensive computer intrusion detection system--a powerful tool to counter cyber-terrorism. The security system is an intrusion detection application package with a core technology and various adaptations to specific uses in the form of intrusion detection sensors. Most significantly, the system provides for communication between individual sensors and to a central monitor--enabling detection of and response to a pattern of attacks aimed at different targets.

American Heart Association's top 10 research advances for 2001 include heart devices, cell transplants and drug-eluting stents
New treatments for heart failure - implantable heart devices and cell-grown tissues - are among the top 10 research advances in heart disease and stroke for 2001, says David Faxon, M.D., president of the American Heart Association.

Enzyme mimetic reduces joint disease in rheumatoid arthritis model
The painful inflammation and debilitating joint damage characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis may be reduced or prevented with a new approach using small-molecule 'enzyme mimetics,' described in research published today in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Green Mud cure for $2 billion loss
Worldwide, the oil industry suffers an estimated $2 billion loss every year due to collapsed and sidetracked holes, lost tools and abandoned wells. Researchers from CSIRO, in conjunction with US firm Halliburton Energy Services' Baroid Drilling Fluids, have developed a low-cost, environmental product to help alleviate this industry headache: 'green muds'.

United Kingdom to join ESO on July 1, 2002
The Councils of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), at their respective meetings on December 3 and 5, 2001, have endorsed the terms for UK membership of ESO, as recently agreed by their Negotiating Teams. The formal procedure of accession will now commence in the UK and is expected to be achieved in good time to allow accession from July 2002.

The ecological consequences of 'promiscuous' boating
First appearing in North American waters in 1988, the Eurasian zebra mussel has rapidly colonized freshwater systems and can now be found in all of the Great Lakes as well as rivers large and small across the United States and Canada. Researchers have long assumed that transient recreational boating provides a conduit for zebra mussels to be transported to inland lakes. A new study published in the December issue of Ecological Applications provides insight into the ecological risks posed by this popular recreational activity.

Rochester neurologist to lead biggest clinical trial ever of Parkinson's disease
Physicians are planning the largest study ever of patients with Parkinson's disease. University of Rochester neurologist Karl Kieburtz will lead the study of 3,000 patients around the country who have Parkinson's disease; the statistical component of the study will be headed by scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina. The clinical trial is the largest effort yet to find a way to slow the progression of the disease.

New findings explain T-cell loss in HIV infection
Two independent studies from the NIH and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center show that HIV accelerates the division of existing T cells, rather than depleting CD4+ T cells by blocking new T-cell production.

'Scared to death,' more than just an expression
In the legendary Sherlock Holmes story

Apolipoproteins could be better predictor of heart attack than cholesterol
Measurement of lipid components called apolipoproteins could be a better indicator of heart-attack risk than conventional cholesterol assessment, conclude authors of a study in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Survey of intensive care units concludes that the current approach to preventing deep vein thrombosis is substandard
In this month's Critical Care, a survey of 44 intensive care units (ICU) suggests that the care taken to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and its complications is substandard.

TV news skews viewer perception of threats to life and limb
Reporting in the first epidemiological study of its kind, UCLA researchers say television news in Los Angeles skews viewer perception of actual threats to life and limb, causing unwarranted anxiety over some risks while masking the danger of others.

Research promises new hope for mild stroke sufferers unable to hold a job
There may be new hope for people who have suffered a mild stroke and find themselves unable to hold a job because of a reduced ability to concentrate and perform tasks in a consistent manner. Clinical and scientific researchers in Canada and the U.S. are teaming up on a rehabilitation study to identify more effective treatments to help mild stroke patients improve their attentional control, motor skills and response consistency.

Here comes the rain
For the first time climate modellers have predicted exactly what will happen to an area with just a small rise in temperature. According to the American researchers, just a degree or two of warming could trigger extreme winter flooding and severe storms.

Gene triggers stem cell differentiation in the intestine
By probing the nervous system of the gut, HHMI researchers have discovered that a gene that governs development of neuronal cells is involved in regulating differentiation of stem cells into secretory cells in the intestine.

On California's Channel Islands, native predators became prey when feral pigs rearranged the food web
Feral pigs have caused a complete restructuring of the food web on California's Channel Islands, threatening the native island fox with extinction.

Jefferson scientists suggest potential mechanism underlying the origin of colon cancer
Researchers may have figured out one way in which a mutation in a gene thought to be responsible for colon cancer may actually cause the disease. They showed in the laboratory that this gene, APC, normally limits the expression of a protein, survivin, which prevents stem cells in the colon from dying. When APC is altered, survivin works overtime and stem cells in the colon, instead of dying, grow, resulting in cancer.

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